AUSTIN (KXAN) – Racial tension in Austin can be traced back almost 200 years to the first white settlers in Texas. “I think there’s this tendency for Texas to distance itself from the history of slavery and enslavement,” said Carre Adams, Curator of the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin. “It’s a history of having been left out and having to fight for what should be given.”
While under Mexican control, slavery was illegal, according to information published by the Bullock Museum. When white settlers moved into Texas, they insisted they keep their slaves. By 1825, a quarter of all people in Texas were slaves. A decade later, the Mexican state had more than 5,000 slaves. After the Texas Revolution, the newly formed country actively worked to support slavery. The Texas Constitution added protections for slave owners, according to the Bullock Museum.
In Austin, 1928 can be seen as a fulcrum point for race relations. A city plan was enacted to drive black and latinx people east of I-35. The city did this by denying them things like plumbing and electricity unless they moved. “They say, ‘hey, if you want to receive these critical infrastructure services you have to move over here’,” says Mr. Adams, “The catch was some of that infrastructure wasn’t actually there.”
This move forced the minority community to build their own infrastructure. Black owned business and essential services sprung up. In east Austin, 7th street served as divide between black and latinx communities, but the communities were united around several community action groups.
Decades later, this same forced migration is happening again. Member of the community point toward gentrification as the modern form of the 1928 plan. While the development happening today may look different than it did in 1928, Mr. Adams says it has the same result. “I think we have to tell these whole stories. One system replaces another, that’s the history of this country.”